What is Self-Defense & Does it work?

 Self-Defense Training

The term self-defense gets a bad rap.  Over the decades, many martial arts have used this term to build the confidence of its students so they will practice their art with determination and commitment.  However, not all martial arts are dedicated purposely to only self-defense; but almost all martial arts offer a skill(s) that can be applied to a self-defense situation.  With that being said, not all martial arts need to be focused on self-defense. There is nothing wrong with practicing a martial art for its pure enjoyment, self-enhancement and dedication.  All martial arts have something valuable to offer its practitioners.  It is important for an art to be honest in its purpose. For example,  I love Tae Kwon Do!  I love Olympic TKD.  And, I completely respect the high level XMA practitioners that perform forms who often come from a TKD background.  As a TKD black belt, I can also be honest that as a traditional martial art and modern day sport - TKD  is not an art form dedicated solely to street or tactical self-defense.  Just because TKD does not drill situational defenses or train how to get out of a clinch from against a wall - does not mean that TKD is any less of a martial art than any other style.  I also believe that a TKD practitioner with solid kicking skills and good footwork has skill sets that can translate to some self-defense situations.  In fact, I believe that traditional martial arts students avoid danger because their dedication to their art form heightens their awareness, respect and understanding of danger.

So what is Self-Defense?

Self-defense training can also be called personal safety management skills.  Someone who is uber-aware and takes all sorts of extra precautions about their safety (i.e. where they park, how late they stay out, the neighborhood they visit, how they walk the streets etc..) is far less likely to face an attacker than a high-level combative martial artist who often finds themselves drunk after midnight and walks home alone.  I know this sounds more parental and less like tactical advise - but our behavior and how we actually manage our personal safety directly relates to our ability to avoid violence.

Self-de*fense- as a noun and legal term is a person's ability to use appropriate and reasonable force against another that poses you bodily harm.  Here is a look at a blog that addresses other legalities surrounding self defense from Chicagonow.com.  

Training in a martial art that focuses only on self-defense will improve your safety on the street.  Training should include a constant reminder of the context.  Whether you are trying to escape a headlock, throwing punches, kicks, learning how to get to a better position or simply improving your peripheral awareness - it must be done with some form of situational context.  This is the instructor's job.  The dialog to set up a striking drill is as important as the drill itself.

An Example of a Basic Combative Drill for Self-Defense
The truth is, that in a boxing workout you might throw 1000 punches.  These are the same punches you would throw in a Krav Maga , an Army Combatives or reality-based self-defense class.  There is no magic right-cross that is used only for the street.  It is the fact that you are practicing a boxer's cross or straight right-hand as a reflexive strike when being threatened.  Not only should you learn to throw it well and with good form - you should be taught to throw your right-cross instinctually and as hard as you possibly can!  You should also use it to improve your position while avoiding being placed in another position of disadvantage.  Note that one punch will never save you. But learning to punch is one solid place to start when learning self-defense.  If we build upon this, and say it is a starting point of a lesson plan, then striking drills for self-defense should always present context.  Your instructor should include explanations like:

  • you are not boxing in your weight-class when you are on the street
  • beautiful combos and exchanges will not apply
  • your punch should also help you gain access to a safer position
  • every strike/combative you throw should help improve your position
  • your goal is to escape the situation of disadvantage

Striking for the street should always include moving to a better position and towards a route of safety.  It should also help you understand the attacker's next possible move based on the situation/location/environment.  Self-defense training should build this tactical and intellectual skill while -  most importantly teaching you how to assessing your environment, so you can ESCAPE.

Self-defense training is worth the time and effort.  Like managing any aspect of your health - your personal safety should fall under the umbrella of  YOUR WELLNESS.  Being safe and being healthy should not be treated separately.  Learning to eat healthy is a combination of some skill and a series of choices.  This is also true for personal safety.  Self-defense is a life saving skill that you can learn and integrates with many personal choices you make about your day-to-day routine.

Be Safe Chicago!

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